Olympic Sailing: Home away from Home
Recently I went to New Bedford Community Boating to celebrate Olympic Day. Besides meeting several aspiring junior sailors and catching up with USSTAG member/2008 Olympian Amanda Clark and 2008 Paralympic Gold medalist Maureen McKinnon-Tucker, I also got to relive the highlights of my own Olympics, way back in 2004. Which offered a great reminder of how much the shoreside support has improved for today’s USSailing Team Alphagraphics.
Athens 2004 was just plain HOT—96 degrees at 6 am (we learned to call that “cool”). At the sailing venue, the only place 16 US Olympic Team members had to call our own was a storage container—with no air-conditioning. (Hanging out in the air-conditioned shop container next door would bring down the wrath of boatwright Carl Eichenlaub.)
Qingdao 2008 was not as hot, but humidity more than made up for the lower temperatures. USSailing wisely provided an air-conditioned space at the sailing venue, with chairs and a small space for coach and weather briefings. A huge step up from 2004—but still a container.
For Weymouth 2012, the challenge will be staying warm and dry. Thanks to the USSTAG compound, that will be relatively easy. USSailing has renovated a building just outside the Olympic sailing venue that offers athletes, staff, and coaches a home away from home: meeting areas, a couch and several chairs to just kick back and relax, even a clothes drying room. There is also space for boat, sail, and mast storage—wow, what an improvement! And since it’s a permanent structure, USSTAG athletes have been able to use this compound as a storage and training base for the past several months, saving on equipment shipping and/or storage in the off-season.
Best of all, having a training home at the site of the next Olympics has encouraged USSTAG members to spend a lot of time there. No matter which US teams win the Olympic Trials (which are already half over), athletes will have spent months in Weymouth getting comfortable on and off the water. That’s a huge change from either Athens or Qingdao, where at best we had a few weeklong events under our belts before the Games.
The USSTAG compound is one small piece of a huge improvement in the US Olympic program, and it may seem like just a detail. But having a place to call their own right outside the gates of the Olympic venue will be a huge step up for our 2012 Olympic Team. We’ve come a long way from the un-air-conditioned storage container Team 2004 called “home” only seven years ago.